Sacred Buddha Relics at Patna Museum

The Holy Relics Casket

The sacred Buddha Relics at the Patna Museum is one of the most prized possession of the Museum since 1972. The sacred relics was found in the centre of lowest mud layer of the stupa at Baniya village in Vaishali district during an extensive excavation carried out by noted archaeologist Anant Sadashiv Altekar from 1958 to 1961.  The white-colored casket is one-third filled with the ashes of Buddha along with one stone bead, one broken glass bead, copper punch mark coin, conch and a small leaf of gold. The casket is placed in a special glass compartment with sealed locks in a special temperature and humidity controlled room. Photos of Buddha and excavation sites adorn the walls of the room. The room is under 24X7 monitoring of CCTV at the museum.

According to the legend, Buddha underwent Maha Parinirvana in Kushinagar in 483 BC. After his body was cremated, differences arose among groups over the division of his remains. Later, it was divided into eight parts and distributed among the eight powerful kingdoms and republics, which laid claim over them. All of them buried their share of relics in stupas specially built to serve as markers of the physical presence of the Buddha and his teachings, one of which was given to Lichhavis of Vaishali.  The appearance of stupa and the use of mud lumps denotes that it is one of the eight original stupas housing the Buddha's relics. The authenticity of the relics has been proved archaeologically, scientifically and on the basis of the literary sources. The partially-empty casket at the times of excavation also proved Yuan-Chwang's statement right that Ashoka the great broke open all eight stupas, except one, and took the relics away and divided them into 84000 parts to be placed in equally number of stupas that he built during his reign in all parts of his empire.

The visit to the relics requires a different ticket, which costs Rs. 100 for domestic visitors and Rs 500 for foreign visitors. A visitor is taken into the room with full security arrangements. The relic room is situated on the first floor of the museum building. A visitor can see only the casket and not the relics as the casket is sealed.